Help Centre for Payroll bureaux

Full implementation guide (Voluntary Scheme)

Welcome to the NOW: Pensions Trust!

This guide provides comprehensive help that will help you get your employer’s pension plan up and running.

In the sections below we provide a summary of each of the steps you will need to take to get set-up, links to more detailed help where you need it, and links to documents and templates that will be useful to you and your organisation.

Towards the bottom of this page are further documents that provide greater detail on implementation issues ranging from data file specifications to employee communication.

Step 1
Employees need to apply to join the Plan

A “Voluntary Plan” is one where an employer has decided to join the NOW: Pensions Trust before their auto enrolment staging date.

In this case an employer will need to have signed permission from their employees to deduct any contributions. An employer’s employees may already have this as part of their employment contract. If not please download our example of a standard application form (please note that NOW: Pensions does not need to see this completed permission form). This is a standard template however if you have decided to operate a salary sacrifice arrangement in conjunction with our scheme, you may need to create your own form to ensure you meet the salary sacrifice legal requirements. You must also ensure that your employees also see the key features of the scheme and this can be found here.

You will need to bespoke this the application form to your needs and provide to your employees for completion and return to you. This allows you to deduct contributions from employees’ pay in the amount required or selected. Without this form employees cannot become members and contributions cannot legally be deducted from their pay and paid to the Plan.

Once signed the application form should be retained with the employees staff file to evidence that you have permission to deduct pension contributions from their pay in the amount shown.

Please note even if you are contractually joining employees into the Plan via their contract of employment the form may still be useful to allow them to select to pay additional contributions.

Step 2
Initial set-up of your Employer Portal

Around 2 working days after the legal agreement between NOW: Pensions and your organisation is complete, an email with a unique link to your Employer Portal will be issued. This is where you will upload your payroll data to support the administration of your scheme.

Whilst your site will contain some basic information on first login, you must verify the data and enter additional information to ensure that your site works correctly. Please follow these steps to complete your setup.

Click here for a detailed step-by-step guide to the initial set-up of your employer portal.

Step 3
Prepare your payroll data

Once you have completed the initial set-up of your Employer Portal you are ready to upload payroll data.

You will need to provide us with information about the employer’s employees and the contributions they wish us to invest. We will use this to set up each member’s record and to then communicate directly with them using the contact information you provide.

Your employee data will come from your payroll system. This data should be in the required format for the system to recognise during a data import.

This is a very important step in the auto enrolment process and is critical to make sure your data is complete, accurate and in the right format. If there are errors or missing information, this may create significant problems for you.

It is your responsibility to ensure that your payroll data is correct. But we have provided a Validation Tool that will help you to check your payroll file before you import it into the portal.

Please follow this link to our Validation Tool.

The tool supports both Generic Input Files and Generic Jericho Formats. If you use any other file type, please skip straight to step 4).

Please correct any problems that the Validation Tool identifies. Please note that not all errors can be identified by the Validation Tool at this stage.

  • Where does my payroll data come from?

    The data you provide usually comes from your payroll software and must be in a specific format which is detailed in our “A guide to generic input files payroll to NOW: Pensions” document.

    You should contact your payroll software provider/payroll company to let them know that NOW: Pensions will be providing the employer’s pension Plan and although they may already be aware of our file format requirements, we recommend that you pass them a copy of the file specifications to ensure that files can be created in the correct format and thus easily imported from the payroll into the microsite. This may involve an upgrade to your payroll software and you may also need to input some basic details about the Plan into your payroll software, such as the fact that we are an Occupational Auto Enrolment Scheme and that contributions are deducted from pay before tax (Net Pay) thus employee pension contributions are paid to us in full.

Step 4
Uploading Payroll Data to your Employer Portal

Please do not start this step until all errors identified in the previous step have been corrected. Uploading incorrect data may cause you significant problems later down the line.

Please find our detailed Help article on uploading your payroll data here.

Step 5
Making payments for Members into the scheme

Payments will be deducted using Direct Debit and will be based on the gross contribution totals shown in the files which you upload, with the exception of employees who are still within their opt out window. Contributions will be deducted for these individuals, if they stay in the scheme, the first pay period after they have passed this window.

Our Scheme is a "Net Pay" arrangement and not "Relief at Source", therefore contributions are deducted from the employee’s pay as a gross amount before tax is calculated. For more information please refer to this Help Centre article: Is the contribution taken before tax and NI?

If you would like to see a breakdown of your Direct Debit payments, you can do this by accessing a ‘Direct Debit Contribution Reconciliation’ report via your NOW: Pensions Portal. From here you will be able to reconcile the contribution figures that are quoted on the Direct Debit collection emails that are issued and also establish why contributions may not have been collected for some employees.

For further information, please see the How do I reconcile or see a breakdown of Direct Debit contributions on our help centre.

Step 6
Keep your portal up to date

Remember to keep your details up to date, updating contact information. Please note, a minimum of 3 months and a maximum of 12 months future pay periods should be entered in the site at any one time. Please also make sure employee information is updated as it changes and in the files uploaded for each payroll period.

When the employer reaches their staging date

The employer will have new responsibilities and be required to automatically enrol eligible employees and you will no longer need to have application forms completed.

You will continue to use the microsite in exactly the same way however, there will be additional information which you will need to provide and the details are shown in the aforementioned File Specifications.

You should also ensure that your payroll/software provider know when your staging date is so that they can ensure that any appropriate changes can be made to their services.

The Pensions Regulator has more information about staging and ongoing auto enrolment responsibilities which can be found at and

Please note that employees who join the Plan have their own helpdesk team who can be contacted on 0330 100 3334.

* Important Documents

The following documents provide additional information to help you during the implementation process.

A guide to generic input files payroll to NOW: Pensions voluntary scheme

A guide to generic output files - NOW: Pensions to Payroll

Your payroll upload files explained

Common Errors and Warnings. This guide highlights some of the most common errors and warnings encountered when uploading files through the web portal.

Direct debit mandate & instructions

NOW: Pensions has a good technical infrastructure combined with a pension product suitable for our team. We couldn’t be happier with NOW: Pensions.
Martin Woods,